Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Most Important Treaty You've Never Heard Of

Leadership Summit of the TPP (Wikipedia)
Sixteen nations have been negotiating a free trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) since 2010. If you have never heard of this before it's because the negotiations have been shrouded by secrecy.  Even members of the U. S. Congress have been denied access to the document. This despite the fact that they may one day need to approve the treaty.

One part that has been made public is the intellectual Property section of the treaty. Wikileaks published a complete draft of this section on November 13, 2013.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation has some serious things to say about the chilling effect that this part of the TPP will have on freedom of speech, right to privacy and due process, and peoples' freedom to innovate.

Despite the fact that few in Congress have any idea what the TPP says the Huffington Post is reporting that Congress will give special interests and corporations what they want by putting the approval process on the fast track. There are a few in Congress, however, that would like to open the process up to scrutiny.  The attached article at The New American reports on this and give a good overview of the concerns that many people from may different political viewpoints have with the TPP.  

Members of Congress Call for TPP Transparency

The New American was among the media outlets invited to a telephone press conference hosted by the Sierra Club on December 5. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was the topic of the event.

Five members of Congress participated in the presser, each of whom voiced concerns about the still-secret proposed trade pact. Ilana Solomon, the director of the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program, moderated the call with Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), George Miller (D-Calif.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), and Steve Israel (D-N.Y.).

The representatives expressed their concerns leading up to this weekend’s last-minute meeting on the Trans-Pacific Partnership in Singapore. While the goal of the meeting is to announce that a final deal has been reached, many fundamental provisions remain unresolved, including some that directly impact the authority of Congress to regulate international commerce.

One of the key issues yet to be resolved in the trade pact is around currency manipulation, the process by which countries reduce the value of their currency in order to encourage exports.

“Currency manipulation has expanded the U.S. trade deficit and cost us jobs,” said Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro. “Several countries involved in the TPP negotiations have a history of or are currently manipulating their exchange rates to promote their exports at the expense of American workers. Congress has made clear that currency disciplines are critical to leveling the playing field for American workers and that not including them in the TPP would be a slap in the face to those workers. Any deal announced that does not address this issue is not a deal in the eyes of Congress, which has the final say when it comes to trade.”

During the discussions, Representative Miller worried that American labor laws would be subordinated to foreign control and that the pact might result in the emaciation of the economic and manufacturing power of the United States.

“If the United States doesn’t insist on stronger, enforceable worker protections in the TPP, American workers will pay the price as more jobs are moved offshore and countries provide ever-fewer protections in a global race to the bottom,” said Miller said. “Past trade deals have given lip service to protecting workers, while allowing conditions on the ground to deteriorate. This time, labor protections need to be integrated into the TPP itself, not put in a side deal, in order to make international human rights a concrete reality for more people around the world.”